Christchurch-based writer Heather McQuillan is the winner of this year's National Flash Fiction Day competition, with her story Trampolining in the Matukituki. Nod Ghosh took second place with Shapeshifters on the Bus and Linda Moser was third with The Wheatfield. In addition to the top three places, there were seven highly commended stories and 14 commended stories. All place-getters will be published in the special July issue of Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction.
TRAMPOLINING IN THE MATUKITUKI
by Heather McQuillan
I reached the knoll first, nothing to boast of. My pack was lighter. Kyle carried both the Primus and the billy.
My hands were chafed from pulling myself skyward by tree roots. I raised them, let my heart's echo-beats subside. I inhaled the mountain's breath. I am Hineahuone, a girl made from clay. Kyle strode to the edge to take Rob Roy's photo. His lens focused on the mountain's white-crowned head, its chest -- battle-scarred with waterfalls -- its challenge.
Tarns, like torn patches of sky, littered the tussocks. On the next rise the bivvy sat, squat and orange. Beside it, the trampoline was a yawning rectangle.
I reached the hut first. As I lay on slices of glacial rock, heaviness ascended my legs, pressed my heart to the mountain. The taste of blood rinsed my throat. Cloud-swatches of greywacke painted the sky.
Jarred by grating pipes and screws as Kyle assembled the Primus, I rolled on to the trampoline's sun-warmed netting. My weight sank to unfathomable depths. I coiled to protect my bloated lungs. Breathe out, clay girl. Breathe out.
The billy simmered as I jumped -- hesitant bounces at first, fearful that the thwomp-slap-thwomp would prompt an avalanche. Legs straight and bent, arms up and down. My body a curled ammonite, I bowed to Rob Roy in somersault after somersault. I sneezed.
While Kyle checked the map by Primus mantle, I counted the distances between us.
When daylight arrived, in cold slices of watermelon pink, the trampoline was gone. Kyle had already set off, not waiting for me to finish tying my bootlaces. The breath from my nostrils blended with the mountain's mist.
I reached the conclusion first but there was still the long walk home.